Rushing joins BPL trustee board; wants ‘transparent planning process’

Mayor Thomas Menino last week appointed state Rep. Byron Rushing to the Boston Public Library system’s board of trustees.

Rushing, a Roxbury Democrat, has been a member of the state’s House of Representatives since 1983.
Rushing has been an outspoken critic of the Menino administration’s move to close four library branches, including the one in Lower Mills.

“The mayor knows my position and how I believe that the libraries need to have a transparent planning process,” Rushing said.

Rushing said he expects to spend some time gathering information and “getting to know” the library from the trustees’ perspective. “The trustees probably know more about me than I know about them,” Rushing added.

Earlier this year, as state lawmakers and activists were fighting with trustees over the proposed closure of four libraries, Rushing lashed into the board, calling their relationship with lawmakers “outrageous.”
“I can think of very few institutions that come to the Legislature for funding that have such a terrible relationship with the Legislature,” he said at a June board meeting, later adding, “You have had lobbyists who are awful. You have literally done a bad job.”

Library officials say Beacon Hill lawmakers have been consistently gutting funding for libraries, prompting the job cuts and the proposals to close branches. Lawmakers have struck back with a budget amendment that cuts funding further if any libraries are closed, drawing complaints from library officials who say such a move would cause “draconian” damage to the library system.

“At a time when libraries are changing and our city and state face difficult economic challenges, Byron Rushing is the kind of dedicated leader that will work hard to make a difference as a Trustee of the Boston Public Library,” Menino said in a statement. “Byron has already done great things for the Boston community throughout his career as a staunch advocate for the residents of this city and lawmaker on Beacon Hill, and I thank him for his willingness to take on this new role in serving his fellow citizens of Boston.”

Rushing is a New York native who has lived in Boston since 1964. He was president of the Museum of Afro-American History from 1972 to 1985.

The last state representative to hold a seat on the board was Angelo Scaccia, a Readville Democrat. Scaccia was on the board from 2000 to 2009.

Rushing’s first meeting is expected to be at the Roslindale branch on Nov. 16.